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Published: October 28th 2011
First to Arrive
We beat the tour busses!
Days 24 and 25
Salisbury “Nice Church, Great Rocks….”
We sleep wonderfully well. That is a very good thing because our waking thoughts are: Wow! It’s hot already and we have gotten up very, very early for our trip to Stonehenge.
A lovely breakfast is cooked up by Veronica and served by her John, the car is packed up, and too very soon, we are leaving the wonderful hospitality of Webster’s B&B. It occurs to us that this is our last Bed and Breakfast stay: tonight we check into a real hotel to begin the transition into that you’re-not-on-holiday-anymore world. Well, let’s just put that nasty little looming thought out of our minds and head out to Stonehenge.
Stonehenge is quiet , deserted, and slightly eerie in the inversion haze brought on by the current heat wave. There are only a few cars in the car park, so we cross the motorway and snap a few photos of the great monument, sans tourists, over the wire link fence. The queue begins to form- but, AHA! we have our English Heritage Passes, so not only do we go to the front of the line, we just flash the
Stonehenge and the Ditch
As we have learned over our visit, these ditches were once very deep and steep. Time has mellowed and flattened the ditch you see here.
cards, go through the gate, grab our audio tours, trot across the street and BLISS! For 10 minutes or so we have Stonehenge all to ourselves. It is hard to describe the mystique of Stonehenge: it is a common image and we have seen so many of these Neolithic monuments on our trip, yet somehow this may be the most breathtaking. Perhaps it is the engineering that is evident here. It is almost like being able to read the thought processes of our very earliest ancestors, yet it is still such a mystery. Although all of these sacred monuments we have visited share features of having been erected on a promontory with a view that extends miles over the landscape with alley ways that lead to, and great ditches that surround, them, each is different in its own way. Perhaps it is that Stonehenge, with so many of its henges still standing and it’s lintels that let your imagination complete the circles, feels more like a modern sanctuary than the other monuments.
We go around the circle: it really doesn’t really take too long. We have a had a lovely visit here and John has gotten to cross “Visit
Stonehenge” off his bucket list. The heat is rising, the haze is lowering, and the tour busses are rolling in so it is time for one last look.
Next stop is Old Sarum, the original site of Salisbury Cathedral and William the Conqueror’s Royal Castle both built within an Iron Age fortification. The fortification was probably built around 400 BC and called Sorviodunum by the Romans. It was used into the 11th century when William decided to build his court of towers, halls, and apartments and the outer bailey within the fortification. The cathedral was also built about this time, but was moved to Salisbury in 1220. What now remains are some outlines of the inner walls-the outer wall facing stones have long been removed. There are good information signs that help you understand the original structure and the functions of the rooms, including the deep and wide privy into which some unlucky soul had to be lowered to clean it out. And you thought you had a shitty job?
Actually Old Sarum serves as a great venue for a long walk to stretch our legs before our trip back to London, Greenwich specifically. Greenwich is our last
Only the inner walls remain of the royal apartments.
stop before we leave for home….but there are those pesky morbid thoughts again….
We head into Greenwich, check in to a real modern with elevators hotel, and call Cousin John for his pledged assistance in getting our rental car turned in. This turns into yet another adventure. As it turns out, a main gas line has broken, causing a main bus line to shut down, it is Friday, it is time for school to be let out, and it is almost rush hour. If Cousin John had not led the way, there is no telling when we would have turned the car in: we might still be trying. I tried to get pictures as we followed him dodging between poles and driving on sidewalks (really, everyone else was doing the same)but they were all blurry. Sorry. After 60 minutes of heart pounding white knuckle driving, we managed to make the trip which should have taken 10 minutes. John turns the car in and he is now free of driving on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road! For this trip, anyway. Wait! Is that another ending?
We climb into Cousin John’s lovely
Standing Inside the Cathedral
You can see where the interior columns once stood.
Land Rover for another traffic snarled-up trip and arrive at his home where we pick up wife Paula and twin boys Sam and Dan. Sam and Dan are less than thrilled that they are joining us for dinner: they have been waiting for their dad to get home so they can go to Grandma’s. We bribe them with fizzy drinks (I want one too, but one of those dark brown fizzy Guinness’s.) Dinner is at the Cutty Sark Pub which is being refurbished for the 2012 Olympics, so we get to eat at picnic tables above the Thames, while the boys play trucks and Cousin John and Paula are convivial and hospitable while doing double duty as the parents of twins. Soon the boys will not be put off any longer from going to grandma’s, so it’s good-bye until next time. I am not liking these little ending bits chipping away at us.
We stroll along the Thames, watch the sun set, and then push our way through the throngs of people who have come to Greenwich to get a little bit out of the heat.
Arriving at our modern air-conditioned hotel is heaven—that is until we go
Fizzy drinks, scampi, and trucks-yum!
up to our room. There is no air conditioning! If we open the window, the noise from the street below makes it sound as if the throngs we have pushed through are actually in the room with us. The desk clerk comes up and confirms that our “air cooling system” is indeed broken, but immediately brings us a table fan, a bottle of ice-cold water, and a promise that the unit will be fixed tomorrow. All help is help and with the fan going full blast, we can close down the window a bit and we are quieter and cooler. I fall asleep soon after and John reports that the street got quiet around 3AM. He had a little more trouble sleeping than I did, I guess.
Fan or no fan, this room is hot! The sun is blasting straight into the window: we can’t get dressed soon enough to go down to the “air cooled” dining room for yet another Full English Breakfast. And they have beans! I just love beans for breakfast with eggs and toast. I never eat such a thing at home, but on holiday? Oh my do I love beans for
Fortified, we head out to see Greenwich. On the way out we let the clerk at the main desk know that we will be out of our room so the repairs can be made to our cooling system. He begins telling us how to operate the unit: we know, we have been shown. He can get us a fan: we know, we have a fan. He explains that it is not an air conditioning unit: we know—it is an “air cooling system.” Finally I have to use my teacher voice and demeanor. He turns his back. Wonder if it will get fixed?
We start at the Greenwich Market and find some lovely metal stamps of a Celtic design that will be ever so wonderful for our trip scrapbook….eewwww morbid end of holiday thoughts again. We also find a lovely blue pleather suitcase that will fit our needs in transporting our growing number of belongings back to the US. While John takes the suitcase back to the hotel (air cooling still not working, he reports,) I go to The Junk Shop which has a lovely sign “Junk makes you happy.” I find some wonderful old postcards (more scrapbooking
stuff) and then we trek out to the Royal Observatory. John gets to stand on the Prime Meridian—cross that off your bucket list—and we find that the basement rooms of the Observatory are cool, although crowded.
By now the temperature has reached 86 degrees and 89% humidity, and although I have not mentioned it before, I have brought not one thing to wear in a heat wave. I am in black jeans, wool socks, and travel knits, while my darling husband-also suffering from the heat and humidity-is suffering slightly less so in shorts and a t-shirt. I must admit to a bit of crankiness.
We do find that the Queen’s House, across the common from the Royal Observatory, is quite pleasant, and we dawdle there looking at oil portraits of the Royals, sea battles, and sea explorations.
We are planning for a visit to the National Maritime Museum when we are waylaid by a lovely, cool, calm restaurant with a lovely view of the commons. It seems as if all of London is out on the green: children are playing in the water features and fountains, men are lying in the sun without shirts on, and the
Greenwich, The Prime Meridian
On either side of the Prime Meridian and apparently dressed for different continents.
ice cream carts are mobbed. We linger over lunch until we decide that we have come to the end. We are too tired to go to another museum, we are too tired to even take another photo, we are just tired.
We absolutely have to push our way through the mobs in Greenwich and arrive in our room to –Nirvana! It is cool, the curtains are drawn and it is dark, the window is closed and it is quiet.
Dinner is at the hotel, the car is ordered for the morning, we have packed our bags for security checks, but do we really have to go home?
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